Sweet Iced Tea and the Flyswatter Trick
Some people say it’s a Southern thing, sweet iced tea, but I’m pretty sure that it’s an everywhere thing, just like front porch swings and grandmas. My grandma made the best sweet ice tea. She called it sun tea and made it right there in the kitchen window.
I remember the big jar of tea how it glowed the morning light as the curtains danced and June bugs hummed around outside waiting to be caught by a seven year old. I remember how it tasted too; sweet and delicious, poured of a jelly jar filled with ice cubes fresh from the ice box, as my grandma called her refrigerator. I remember my grandma’s flyswatter trick too.
As it turned out, I wasn’t the only one who thought my grandma’s tea was the best. There many others and they didn’t mind showing up to help us enjoy it. It wasn’t unusual to have a porch full of people in the early evening, all sitting on the porch, sipping my grandma’s iced tea, and talking about the old times. Some were kin and neighbors and people we went to church with, which wasn’t so bad. My grandma was a kindhearted soul. But truth known, some people who showed up we didn’t even know that well, and others not at all.
It wasn’t long after she told me the story of the, Little Red Hen, that she taught me the flyswatter trick. Nowadays I doubt anyone tells that old story of the Little Red Hen, and how she worked for her food while the rest of the barnyard played around. It has a pretty harsh ending, the Little Red Hen not sharing her cornbread and the other animals missing out.
Nowadays people don’t tell stories like that, or the Three Little Pigs, or The Ant and the Grasshopper. Anyways, I expect if my grandma was around, she would still be telling those stories and I would still be listening, and we would still be playing the flyswatter trick and sipping sweet iced tea on the front porch.
I first saw the flyswatter trick one Sunday afternoon when a second cousin of Sister Inez, showed up at my grandma’s house, without Sister Inez. It took us a while to connect the dots and figure out who she was, this woman with a beehive hairdo, too much perfume, and wearing lipstick like rodeo clown.
My grandma pretended to be glad to see this woman who waddled up the side walk giving us a “How are Y’all,” from behind her sunglasses as she struggled to make her big city voice sound Southern.
I just kept reading my Superman comic book. That’s what I did when my grandma and I sat on the porch while she read her Sunday school lesson.
I remember her name was Gladolia and how when she reached the top step of the porch her eyes lit from behind her sunglasses, her eyebrows hopped up and a smile spread itself across her face. That was when she saw the tea, sweet and delicious, glowing in the evening sun as it waited to be poured and sipped.
Right after that she smiled she looked back her big car and waved. It wouldn’t have been so bad if it had been just her, but Gladiolia wasn’t alone. People just kept pouring out of the car, it looked like The Waltons Meets Eight is Enough, and everyone of the yardcrossers made no secret that they were thirsty.
That was when my grandma and I got busy. I hauled out chairs from the kitchen while grandma swatted some very big flies with her yellow fly swatter that advertised the local funeral home.
“That was a juicy one,” she said with a smile as she showed off her latest kill like a big game hunter on safari. It was all part of her plan, showing the splattered fly on her flapper. I didn’t know it at the time though. It was only after she sent me inside for more glasses and ice that I figured out what my sweet grandma had going on under her silver hair.
It would soon be tea pouring time she told eager ears which gathered close to the big jar like moths to a porch light at midnight.
“Not before I stir it reeeeel good,” she told our guest, all twelve, as she explained how sugar sometimes settled at the bottom of the jar. They all nodded.
Then to everyone’s surprise my sweet old grandma jabbed her fly swatter deep in the jar tea and commenced to giving it a good stirring.
Horrified, is the only word that describes the look on those twenty-four eyes which watched my grandma swish the swatter in the tea like the prop an outboard boat motor.
All while all the while she made sure to smile.
After the horrified look, came looks of disappointment, which was soon followed by good-byes. One by one sad faced and with dropped shoulders our visitors their farewells and they all passed on grandma’s offer to let them take the tea with them.
I can’t remember ever seeing a single one of those folks again, not even Gladolia. Her last wave was it, as she floored the gas pedal, and her old sedan disappeared up the street and into the twilight just as fireflies were beginning to dance.
Then when it was just the two of us, my grandma poured us both tea. Of course that was after she showed me the fly swatter with the big juicy fly splattered had been tucked beside her in the swing.
Grandma had pulled and old switcheroo. The hand is quicker than the eye.
“One is for swatting,” she said, before holding up a second flyswatter which she said was for stirring, especially when strangers came to drink our tea.
There are so many sweet memories of back then and they are almost as sweet I remember my grandma’s tea being, and make me wish more and more that I hadn’t been in such a hurry to grow up.
This is a work of fiction for everyone who loves sweet iced tea, grandmas, and the way things used to be. Edward Reed 2020